Friday, Jan. 23
There was an intense focus on Argo as we headed out to the racecourse for the final day of Key West Race Week. The event was very much on the line as the top three in our class were tied on points. To add some spice to the sauce we were also facing a short, steep sea state that we had not seen since we test sailed the boat in France.
We found out quickly that stable foiling downwind was not going to happen. In smoother water achieving this is a challenge but we quickly learned (after a couple of violent nose-dives) that a compromise mode was best downwind. Foiling when we could but generally sailing a more soaked low-riding mode to keep things safe and stable.
Our game plan for the first race was to start on port, duck everyone and head out to the right side. Our competitive juices got the better of us though and we decided to try for the cross. Not quite and we managed to foul the French in the process incurring a ³slow down² penalty until they were firmly past us. Things perked up from there as we found a great mode upwind and rounded the top mark right behind Armin Strom with Zou Lou in turn right behind us. After slowing down to investigate a crunching sound (more on this later) we saw our lead on the French evaporate and rounded overlapped and split gates. More good mojo upwind to pass the French again.
The final run was difficult with the boat sometimes on the foils but everyone waiting for the inevitable violent nose dive as the foil would pop out of the back of a wave and the boat would collapse back into the water. After finishing second we discovered the crunching noise was the top pin of the rudder assembly had ripped out of it’s carbon housing.
After trying to lash it back in place we realized the risk was too great and with heavy hearts retired from the final, winner take all, race.
How to sum up our first event in the GC 32? First and foremost the feeling of foiling and racing at high speeds was unique and addictive. Having so much fun that you stay out long after racing tells a lot about the boat and how fun it is to sail. As highlighted in my prior post the boat is a beast to sail and punishes mistakes ruthlessly. This makes for a very stressful and physically demanding day on the water. When you get it all right there is no better feeling. When it goes wrong, it goes very wrong.
We have high hopes for the development of the class in the United States and hopefully Key West 2016 will see a lot more of these monsters on the start line.
Wednesday, Jan. 21
Two more light-air races today, nothing super exciting to report on that front. One win and a third for Argo and still leading. The only real drama on our course came from Bella Mente, but I’ll let Terry elaborate on that over in his space.
We’ve been primarily focused on the Melges 32 class for the past five years so apparent-wind sailing was not new to us. Some Caribbean racing on Jason’s Gunboat 62 Elvis also gave us a glimpse into the multihull world. Elvis is primarily a cruising boat but we’ve managed to race it with success and have pushed it fairly hard. Sometimes too hard as our near capsize at the Voile St Barth illustrated last spring.
Enter the GC 32. All carbon, foiling, intensely physical – it’s a big step up. The learning curve has been steep. One of our first major lessons was how much the boat needed to be pressed upwind. It was hard to know if we were doing it right until we started racing here. We’ve been solid upwind and it’s a combination of hiking hard and making sure the boat is pressed enough to be quick. When all is right, all of a sudden the foils start working and the elevator is in full effect. It’s hard to commit to this initially, but the rewards are tremendous.
Today’s second race was a real eye opener as both the French and Swiss teams schooled us on technique. Armin Strom started on port with their gennaker deployed, something we never thought would work, and beat us to the top mark by 200 meters. The French team left the gennaker down but showed how important weight forward and twist was to making these boats go upwind. These were important lessons to put in our fairly small playbook.
We are all keeping our heads down tonight anticipating an intense final two days to the event. We are cognizant that we need to be perfect over the next two days to stay on top of some very talented teams and sailors.
Tuesday, Jan. 20
Patience rewarded today.
For us, the first attempt at yachting was ugly. It was very light with a substantial left shift on the first run. The race committee wisely pulled the plug until conditions improved, which didn’t happen until around 1400. The upside surprise relative to the forecast 8 to 10 was an occasional look at 12.
The first race of the day was fairly pin favored, enough so that everyone but us elected to start on port. We had a nice start at the pin, forcing everyone to duck. The rich got richer from there as a nice vein of pressure on the left delivered us to the top mark with a handy lead. It was all sunshine from there as we managed clean crew work and took a nice win. Even in the light winds, the downwind leg was full on with speeds in the low 20s—it doesn’t take much to light up these yachts.
In Race 2 we liked the right and elected to start on port. Maybe it’s the sweetest move as the two boats to the left of us had a good gap at he top mark. A good run fully in the foils saw us close the gap and have a good shot at second. One of our strong points at this event has been a very steady high mode and we put this to work on the second beat and passed through to second, which we maintained to the finish.
We’re very happy to maintain the lead today. We have a lot of respect for all the talented sailors spread throughout our fleet. Everyone is very intense and focused on the water but very collaborative and chill once we get back to dock. This is a new universe for us and we are loving it.
Monday, January 19, 2015
Today was one of those days of sailing you don’t want to end—so much so that we spent an hour after finishing the last race taking friends for rides on the GC32. It’s great seeing new people on the boat and their reaction when we put the bow down and it pops on the foil. It’s just a special boat.
OK, but back to the racing. Conditions were on the lighter side with lots of light patches and shifts. Normally the left is strong in today’s wind direction, but our team and our French rivals on Zou Lou made the right side of the course work and had a substantial gap at the top mark. Consistent foiling and a clean jibe saw us take the lead at the bottom mark. From there we played a rather conservative covering game and came away with the win.
Race two was lighter still and a poor start had us on the back foot early. We seemed to find all the light patches on the first beat and rounded the top mark last, with some serious work to do. Having a gennaker sheet get sucked into the foil case did not help as the top three steamed away at 20 knots while we got it sorted. Once that was behind us it was a beautiful effort and a great comeback to nearly win, losing a shoot with the Armin Strom team.
A 1-2 sees us with the clubhouse lead. Pretty good forecast for tomorrow and we’re looking forward to getting back to it!
Sunday, January 18
It was a great day of sailing on the Argo GC 32.
This was our ninth day of sailing the boat but the first time we had the chance to line up against other boats. It was very valuable to check in on our moding, especially upwind. It’s a bit of a dark art figuring out when to foil, when to skim, and when to sail displacement mode. After some minor adjustments we felt great going upwind. Downwind was fully foiling today with speeds in the mid 20s.
One of the hardest maneuvers on the GC is jibing. It’s an intense 10 seconds to transfer the boards, furl, and unfurl the gennaker and get ripping on the new jibe.
We’re looking forward to see how we go tomorrow. For sure the boats are a thrill to sail and with sky-high closing speeds some interesting situations will definitely develop.